With Proposition 19 -- California's ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana -- struggling in the polls, the Drug Policy Alliance and the NAACP rolled out a study Friday on how marijuana arrests are racially disproportionate.
The report says that from 2006 through 2008, police in 25 large California cities arrested blacks for low-level marijuana possession at four, five, six, seven and even 12 times the rate of whites, even as U.S. government surveys consistently find that young whites use marijuana at higher rates than young blacks. For example, the study found, the city of Los Angeles arrested blacks for marijuana possession at 7.1 times the rate of whites, and blacks -- who account for 9.6 percent of the city's population -- accounted for 34.4 percent of marijuana arrests.
In San Jose, blacks were arrested at 5.1 times the rate of whites, and blacks -- who account for 2.9 percent of the city's population -- accounted for 4.1 percent of marijuana arrests. Oakland and San Francisco weren't included in the report, which was presented Friday amid the California NAACP's annual convention at the Oakland Marriott and Convention Center.
On hand to release the report were California NAACP State Conference President Alice Huffman, whose early and ardent support of Prop. 19 on the basis of racial discrimination in marijuana enforcement has made waves in the state's black communities; Drug Policy Alliance California Director Stephen Gutwillig; Law Enforcement Against Prohibition Executive Director Neill Franklin; actor Danny Glover; Prop. 19 proponent and Oaksterdam University President Richard Lee; National NAACP Criminal Justice Program Director Robert Rooks; and former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders.
Their news conference preceded a panel discussion on "Lost Communities/Failed Cannabis Prohibition: A Time for Change."
"We are spending billions of dollars each year for a war on drugs, but it has been a war on young black males "... and it's time for us to end that war," Elders said.
Added Huffman: "If you don't believe it's a civil rights issue, you don't believe in justice in America."
The report is available at www.drugpolicy.org/library/arrestingblacks.cfm.
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